Locals Seek Help for Philippines Relief
A group of local volunteers will fly to the Philippines to assist with disaster relief on Dec. 1 and seeks community support for a mission of mercy.
Following the super typhoon Haiyan which devastated the Philippines and claimed more than 5,200 lives earlier this month, Castro Valley native Dan Johanson will lead the group that aims to provide support to the island communities of Leyte and Samar.
“We intend to reach the most underserved locations where relief has yet to arrive and to bring resources to bear that will allow needy families to regain their livelihoods and begin to rebuild their lives,” Johanson said.
Most of the group hails from Castro Valley and Hayward and several of the volunteers are affiliated with First Presbyterian Church of Hayward, including Rev. Toby Nelson.
The volunteers are bringing supplies to help the Filipinos of Leyte and Samar revive their fishing and agriculture industries, which are the communities' primary means of support. They will also deliver and help to install solar-powered communication equipment to help local leaders coordinate aid and development on the remote islands which may not regain electricity for a year, Johanson said.
Despite the outpouring of international support since the typhoon struck, the needs of Leyte and Samar are dire, Johanson said.
“UNICEF, the Red Cross and the big organizations are effective in providing a certain bandwidth of support but we are attempting to reach the smallest, most needy communities," he said.
Johanson lived in the Philippines for more than ten years and founded Badjao Bridge, a nonprofit organization that provides poverty relief to the impoverished Filipinos known as the Sea Gypsies on the island of Panglao.
Volunteers are paying about $2,000 each for expenses of the 11-day effort. They would welcome donations.
"Our overhead is minimal and our donations are completely used for the purposes of relieving the greatest amount of suffering that people are enduring right now," Johanson said.
Badjao Bridge is accepting donations through its web site, www.BadjaoBridge.org.--MJ
Adopt an Angel in Need
According to Alameda County Protective Services, there are more than 6,000 children in our county who will not receive visits from Santa this year. These children have suffered experiences that most of us cannot even imagine. Over half of them are under the age of 10.
Children who, through no fault of their own, live in shelters, group homes, foster homes or with relatives in low income homes where there is, quite simply, no extra money for "frills" such as Barbie dolls or Matchbox cars.
These same children go to school, they watch television, they play with other children and they see what those other children have, but they don't understand why Santa doesn't bring gifts for them to open on Christmas morning.
Adopt An Angel is a non-profit group of volunteers who work to make the dreams and wishes of a portion of those come true.
We are given a list of 650 names along with their ages and three "wishes" for each child/. We, then, appeal to the public to "adopt" a child by taking a tag and supplying the requested Santa gifts. The gifts are returned to us, wrapped and then given to Alameda County for distribution. This year there were more fifty children who included sheets and/or blankets for their beds.
There are many ways you can help us make dreams come true:
1. Adopt a child's name and shop for his/her gifts
2. Help wrap the thousands of gifts done at a warehouse in Hayward the first part of December
3. Donate wrapping paper, 2-inch clear tape or scotch tape, batteries and/of gift boxes
4. Make a tax-deductible monetary donation
5. Tell your friends about us
For more information, call Adopt An Angle chairwoman Georgia Butterfield at 510-673-3938.-- GB
Dusty Paws Saves Four-Legged Friends
An adorable black basenji dog mix was on the green grass amidst the busy activity at Lake Chabot on a recent Sunday evening. With a broad smile stretching across his face, the eager pooch was jumping up and down to catch everyone’s attention.
Charlie was found near Los Banos in Central California and is just one of the many animals that have been rescued by Dusty Paws, a non-profit organization that rescues cats and dogs and tries to find homes for the furry creatures.
Paulette Murillo, a Dusty Paws’ volunteer, explained how Charlie was found with a broken leg and is now awaiting surgery. However, it’ll be an expensive operation costing several thousand dollars and will require fundraising.
Dusty Paws has never said no to any expenses, whatever the circumstances.
“Dusty Paws was first founded in 2007 in Castro Valley and has saved 400 dogs and cats since,” said Murillo.
An all volunteer effort, Dusty Paws’ mission is to rescue strays and take in animals from often overcrowded shelters.
Six years after the organization was launched, the group has sheltered 70 dogs and eight cats.
The process to find and rescue these animals can vary, but it always involves the dedication of more than 20 volunteers in the organization. Some animals have been rescued from shelters days before they were scheduled to be put to sleep, while others are strays.
Not only do the volunteers actively take care of the animals, but they are also responsible for fundraising and adoption events. Bake sales and dog washes are just two of the ways Dusty Paws raises money for animals like Charlie. Dusty Paws also operates several adoption events a year, where people can come and meet the animals Dusty Paws strives to save.
Charlie was as sweet as affectionate as could be, even with a badly-set leg. He jumped on the table to give kisses, enjoyed romping around as much as possible, and desired a lot of love.
To find event dates or to support Dusty Paws, visit the group’s web site at www.dustypawsrescue.net.--- Lauren Jelks and Grace Moon
New Novel Set in Oakland
The Bay Area is the background setting for many novels and increasingly Oakland and Berkeley are also places where novels are set. All News No Blues sat down with Oakland author Renee Swindle to talk about her new book. Here is what she had to say:
ANNB: "Shake Down the Stars" deals with a woman trying to overcome the death of her daughter by drinking and sleeping around. Where did you get the idea for that story line?
RS: I start with character and voice when I write, so I guess you can say I let Piper, the narrator of the novel, dictate the heart of the story. When I started "Shake Down the Stars" I saw a woman standing alone in a room while her family celebrated an event in another part of the house. Why was she alone? I wondered. Why was she drinking? Over time it came to me that (the character) Piper had lost her child five years before and was extremely lonely and somewhat ostracized from her family. I didn’t necessarily want to write anything depressing or heavy, but I stayed with Piper because I wanted to see if she’d find happiness again. I honestly didn’t know how the novel would end. I also loved her crazy family and friends and her smart voice.
ANNB: How did you decide to set parts of the novel in Oakland, West Oakland and Rockridge?
RS: Setting the novel in Oakland was a no-brainer. I live in a neighborhood much like Piper’s where there’s a mix of races and socio-economic classes. It made sense that Piper would also see different neighborhoods. She teaches in West Oakland, for instance, and is related to family members who live in the hills. I loved portraying the economic diversity I see here.
ANNB: When did you first start writing seriously?
RS: I earned my MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. I had no idea if I could make it as a writer, but I wanted to see if I could get an agent before I took on a full-time job. After graduating, I spent a year working as a substitute teacher by day and writing by night. I think that year was when I first began taking myself seriously. I was serious enough to live on the cheap and work my butt off trying to write and teach, anyway. I signed with an agent a year later, and she sold the draft of the book I’d been working on which turned out to be my first novel, "Please Please Please."
ANNB: Are parts of the book based on your own life? The lives of those you know?
RS: I enjoy writing stories that keep the reader turning the page and surprised, and this specifically means avoiding writing about my very boring life. I save writing about my own life and people I know for my journal.
ANNB: Tell us about what message you were aiming to get across in this book and if you feel you were a success.
RS: I hope readers learn that it’s possible to find happiness again, no matter what they’ve been through; that if you’re the outsider of your family, you can create a loving family from friends; and that humor is the antidote to many a momentary problem. The narrator of "Shake Down the Stars" is an amateur astronomer and so I also hope a takeaway from the novel is that the night sky is wondrous and amazing. Thankfully, there’s been a very positive response. Both readers and reviewers have said they laughed and cried while reading the novel, which is perfect and for what I secretly hoped.
ANNB: Your first novel, "Please Pease Please," was an Essence Magazine/Blackboard bestseller, and was published in Germany and Japan. How did that exposure change you as a writer?
RS: Looking back, I think I thought I needed to become someone else as a writer. I wrote two more novels after Please Please Please (this explains the ten-year delay between books), but my agent couldn’t sell either book. I wrote those two novels while doing my best to sound and write like anyone except me. I’m not sure who I was trying to be,but writing those two books helped me discover my voice—or come back to my voice, is probably a better way to describe what happened. After writing two books that didn’t sell, I basically told myself to forget about trying to be someone else and write the story I wanted to tell in my own voice. After writing those books, I discovered my ability lies in humor and telling a fast-paced narrative—at least I hope so—even if the story is sometimes dark or sad. By the time I started Shake Down The Stars, I knew I wanted to write something that used humor while also telling a compelling story. I wanted to write in a style that felt comfortable and honest instead worrying about proving myself.
ANNB: You taught a course titled Developing The Novel for UC Berkeley extension. Have any of your students published anything we might recognize?
RS: I now teach privately and a handful of my students have signed with agents and are in the rewriting phase before the agents approach publishers.
ANNB: What do you love most about Oakland?
RS: There are many places in the world I want to visit, but Oakland’s diversity of people and neighborhoods will always win me over. I truly love this city.
ANNB: Do you plan to set other novels in the Bay Area? What is a great place to set novels?
RS: My goal is to write stories I don’t see out there much. I like characters who aren’t perfect and who make mistakes. I like to write with humor. Oakland inspires all of these things. I hope to write about the crime and poverty, the art scene, the hipsters and gentrification. Oakland isn’t perfect (what city is?), but there’s so much to do and explore. I plan to write many more novels set in Oakland.
ANNB: What's next for you?
RS: My next novel, "A Pinch Of Ooh La La," comes out IN July 2014. It involves a woman who owns a bakery in the Temescal District of Oakland. It’s another novel that’s both funny and moving—at least I hope so.--- KB
Early Alert Canines: Diabetic's Best Friend
From its inception in the spring of 2010, innovator and program director, Carol Edwards projected a mission for Early Alert Canines, (EAC) the Concord based, incorporated non-profit organization, “to improve the health, safety and well-being of insulin-dependent diabetics through partnerships with certified low blood sugar alert dogs”, free of charge! EAC is one of only a few centers who train dogs for juveniles at least 12 years old and adult diabetics of all ages.
There are serious risks when a normal blood sugar level of a Type I Diabetic takes an unsuspected sudden decline and is not detected and corrected within a brief time. Because the service dog has been thoroughly trained to react to the diabetic’s shift in blood sugar level in any given situation, even during the hours of sleep in the night, an Early Alert Canine has earned the reputation as a Diabetic’s Best Friend.
The young dogs, ranging in age from 18 to 24 months old, are received through Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence. Several phases of training, over months, begin with presentation of scent samples and teaching the alert technique to the dog.
A phase of 4 to 6 months of transitional training follows, living in home with a diabetic, then returning at night to their volunteer foster home. Mostly of the labrador and golden retriever breeds, “their life-saving responsibilities will be scent-oriented”, reports staff Registered Nurse, Hilary Freeman. Their incredible sense of smell and their desire to be people-pleasing in a well behaved manner, afford these intensely trained service dogs the skills to perform a highly specialized function, motivation to initiate the alerting action. “A diabetic alert dog is trained to recognize the biochemical scent that a diabetic’s body emits as the blood glucose begins to drop”, she adds.
EAC trains full-access service dogs and skilled companion dogs, and while both are “fully trained in medical alerting, companion dogs are not granted the same public access rights as service dogs," according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Skilled companion dogs are available to families of underage (less than 12 years old) children with diabetes, who have not yet reached a level to independently handle a service dog in public venues, and others who require the alert skilled companion dog only within the home setting.
With each placement situation, an intense team training period is initiated by staff from EAC to assist in forming a bond with the partners. One week is provided for a skilled companion dog, working mainly in the home, and a 2-week period of Team Training takes place for a Full Service canine. Subsequently, periodic post-placement follow up continues, to evaluate and ensure success in the partnership.
Eligibility to receive an Early Alert Canine is based upon a process, which includes an application with a fee of $100, an interview and a home visit to determine needs of the client, who must be insulin-dependent for a period of at least one year and compliant in attempting to manage the diabetes. Full-access service dogs are reported to reach near 100 percent accuracy in alerting the diabetic client, after partnership of just a few months.
What type of canine would be suitable as an early alert dog? Some defining terms appear in their description: career-trained, responsible work ethic, socially adapted, high intelligence, even temperament, life saver and life changer. Certainly these are a tribute befitting the most loyal and coveted best friend!
Training Supervisor, Maureen Lynch Vashel has an extensive history of caring for and bonding with wagging tails, from a childhood 4-H puppy trainer to a licensed instructor at Guide Dogs for the Blind, to years as a consultant at Diablo Doggies, and on to Early Alert Canines, where she shares her enthusiasm of spreading good will day after day. Other staff members include a registered nurse and a research assistant in pediatric endocrinology.
As a non-profit organization, funding is generated through grants, donations, fund-raisers and the help of volunteer assistants, who can serve in many positions. Foster homes are also in need. For further information, contact: www.earlyalertcanines.org or call: 925.349.5190.
Karen Balch is a retired registered nurse, freelance writer and avid dog lover. She writes regularly for All News No Blues.
Got Happiness? Contagious Optimism is Here
"Contagious Optimism" is a bestselling and uplifting book series that contains inspirational stories from real people around the globe, along with insight from professionals. The author, David Mezzapelle, is convinced that we all have the ability to spread optimism by sharing our own life experiences. By virtue of including personal successes as well as those endeavors which did not play out well, but served as stepping stones to later positive outcomes, other people can benefit as the message of hope is conveyed. Everyone can learn something about happiness and success from the lessons of Mezzapelle.
His book contains advice, actions and insights from business leaders, visionaries, professionals and just plain folks. James F. Mooney, chairman of the board of Virgin Media, Inc., endorses the concept as “it empowers, motivates and leads people to tremendous results.”
Aren’t the successes in life what kindle the fire within us and keep the blaze alive? Whether it is a success in finding your own true love, succeeding in overcoming adversity or landing the job you have forever sought after, expert direction and wise counsel can be found within the pages of Contagious Optimism: Uplifting Stories and Motivational Advice for Positive Forward Thinking.
Maintaining focus on the mark, when hills and valleys present discouragement, might add a challenge to the equation, as we may well know. Yet, a success validates that you have been on the right track, heading for your goal or expectation. Mezzapelle “has taken the secret to a joyfully lived life and packaged it in a book” according to Will Glennon, author of Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Created as a compendium of encouragement, "Contagious Optimism" is formatted with more than 100 stories and parables of inspiration to motivate a movement of pass-it-on hope and happiness from individuals, sharing personal insights, advice and guidance from all walks of life, worldwide.
The concept of clearing the mind of negative thinking and tuning in to the idea of positive forward thinking renews lost confidence in one’s-self, attests Mezzapelle, serial entrepreneur and founder of several well-known companies, such as Goliath Technology. A motivational magnet, Mezzapelle has impacted the lives of many since his youth. Always a “glass is completely full” advocate, he lays the foundation of the book’s pervasive positive theme: “Lacking talent only means you have the ability to recognize what needs practice…patience, persistence and perseverance.”
As a college student, he served as an intern at IBM. He later implemented a most innovative academic internship program at his Alma Mater, Fairfield University in Connecticut, leading students to success in being hired or advancing into graduate school.
A regular contributor to the Wall St. Journal, Mezzapelle is an invited guest on radio and TV presentations. A portion of the sales proceeds will be donated to charity from his 272-page volume, Contagious Optimism, published on National Smile Power Day, June 15, 2013.
Throughout the book, each chapter is a helpful advisory account on topics such as relationships, goals, health and fitness, business and careers, maturity and more, with a pertinent parable included. References from notable individuals highlight the precept of optimism. Winston Churchill is quoted as having said “The optimist finds opportunity in every difficulty, not difficulty in every opportunity." Wayne Gretzky of hockey fame relates “you miss 100% of the shots you never take,” a simple maxim for success.
Sometimes failure is the first step toward success. When you think you’re failing at something, try reading a biography of one of your favorite figures in history. You’ll find that their path to success was likely filled with bumps as well. Walt Disney suffered bankruptcy repeatedly with several enterprises he attempted. Not content with defeat, he recognized that he had not yet succeeded and persevered until he eventually built the amazing empire of Disneyland.
Serving in the volunteer arena offers a method to spread the forward thinking theory of Contagious by Example. Investing skills and experience in a community cause or non-profit where compensation includes intangible rewards, reaps a bounty toward changing the world.
Books published by Viva Editions, Berkeley, CA, “are intended to inform, enlighten and entertain the reader, quality books for inspired living”. For further information, contact www.vivaeditions.com or www.lifecarrots.com.--KRB
Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer, avid travel and eternal optimist. She writes frequently for All News No Blues.